"January 9th 1972 miners all over Britain came out on strike and the movement of fuel suppliers were halted by the National Union of Mineworkers. The Government announced a state of emergency and to save electricity introduced a three day working week. One of the last deeds of the loco drivers at the Westoe coal washing plant was to position the few remaining coal wagons near the high brick perimeter wall of Westoe Colliery. This arrangement had been made between the striking miners and the loco drivers in the bar of The New Crown pub. As the crisp, frosty night fell the Coal Bandits, as they came to be known, set out to locate the coal wagons. The bottom boards of the wagons were knocked out spilling the coal onto the rail track. Men and women armed with shovels, carrying hold-alls, haversacks, buckets and coal sacks began to spirit the booty away.
It was women who first took to plundering the wagons and were not deterred by the threat from the National Coal Board of severe penalties for coal theft. The ladies didn't care if they were prosecuted, as long as their kids were warm. Security men many of whom drank in The New Crown and lived in the surrounding areas would signal their approach by whistling loudly and banging the sides of the wagons, the beams from their torches stabbing the night sky. Out of respect, a three minute silence was observed by the Coal Bandits, until the security men had passed. No one was ever prosecuted.